Scotland photos

I have just realised that I have not posted up any photos from my recent trip to Scotland.

They are available on Facebook at Scotland part one and Scotland part two

Surman

Surman showing off and creeking without paddles (just before the first swim of the week)

Ian falling in before running the Arkaig

Ian falling in before running the Arkaig

Snow on my boat before getting on the Orchy

Snow on my boat before getting on the Orchy

On the Orchy with snow on the surrounding peaks

On the Orchy with snow on the surrounding peaks

Vicky

Vicky running Eas a

Ken messing up his line on the Tummel

Ken messing up his line on the Tummel

Phil disappearing on the Findhorn

Phil disappearing on the Findhorn

Neil running Right Angle Falls on the Etive

Neil running Right Angle Falls on the Etive

Me running the first drop on the Allt Mhueran

Me running the first drop on the Allt Mhueran

Phil running the first drop on the Allt Mhueran

Phil running the first drop on the Allt Mhueran

Hodgey flying off the final drop on the Allt Mheuran

Hodgey flying off the final drop on the Allt Mheuran

A stag

A Stag

One of the many fantastic views we were treated to

One of the many fantastic views we were treated to

South Wales – weirs and waterfalls

Following on from spending the week before kayaking in Scotland, I was already bored with England and had to escape again. The destination for this weekend was to be South Wales, and my accomplaces were Martyn, Emma and Dave Birkett and Tim – who had only started one year previously.

The preceeding Thursday saw some frantic discussions as to whether we thought that there would be enough water around to make the trip worthwhile. Once we had concluded that we were going, the panic turned to trying to sort out accommodation. Luckily, this was sorted by about 1000 on Friday morning, with us due to leave in approximately seven hours time – nothing like being prepared!

The drive across to Wales was fairly uneventful and we arrived at our “4-berth self-catering apartment” at Absolute Adventure with enough time to unload the cars and head off down the road to sample the local hospitality at the Pen Y Cae Inn.

Saturday morning arrived earlier than we would all have liked – I decided that we needed to be on the way by 0730 –  and after collecting the car from the pub, we headed off to find a hearty breakfast before we got down to what we were there for.

Afon Dulais was to be our first river of the weekend – a nice grade 3 run with one 200 metre grade 4 not far from the end. This proved to be a nicer river than we had all been expecting, with some nice playwaves / play stoppers to enjoy before we reached the grade 4. As we passed under the railway bridge we were greated with an impressive horizon line. Paddling towards the lip, in order to inspect what was below, I could not see enough of the rapid in order to make the decision to run the rapid. This meant that we all got out of our boats in order to make a more detailed inspection and we were glad we did. The rapid I could see from the top turned out to be only part of a much larger rapid! Following inspection Martyn, Dave and myself were all up for running it, with Tim and Emma providing safety cover. The line we had chosen proved to be easier than we had expected and soon we reached the eddy at the bottom, where Tim and Emma were waiting to join us to carry out down to the get-out.

Martyn taking an interesting route through a tree

Martyn taking an interesting route through a tree

The second river of the day was the Afon Nedd Fechan – which both Martyn and I had run in the summer of 2007, although at a lower level. Emma heard the pub whispering to her and decided to stay in the warm and do some work in the pub. Just around the corner after getting on is a three-metre double drop. This was Tim’s first ever ‘drop’, and the first experience of rolling out of the hole at the bottom.

The first drop on the Nedd Fechan

The first drop on the Nedd Fechan

Portaging around the first waterfall

Portaging around the first waterfall

The first waterfall

The first waterfall

The first waterfall portage (we had already had to portage a tree blocking the river) was made and the following drop inspected at the same time. We took this opportunity to teach Tim about running drops, but he decided that he would demonstrate to us that he knew what to do when he completely missed his line and ended up in the eddy on the wrong side of the drop! The second waterfall portage was next up and Tim proved that he still had stuff to learn about running this kind of river – by sliding down the steep bank back to the river on his behind!

Tim recovering after sliding down the bank

Tim recovering after sliding down the bank

Tim and Dave both portaged to next drop – Horseshoe Falls – which is a drop into a short pool followed immediately by a double drop, with a cushion wave on the right to miss and a stopper at the bottom to stay clear of. Martyn went first, running the fast, long slide above the falls. Dropping off the first ledge he was straight into the double falls before he had time to think. He made it through the stopper, despite looking like he was going to end up sideways in it! I went next – the speed at which you travel down the slide above the fall was quite astounding. Before you realised you had travelled the 100 or so metres and were at the top of the first ledge. A quick boof on the left, a brace on the right, a couple of quick strokes, a brace on the left as I hit the cushion wave and a stroke on the right saw me reach the eddy at the bottom of the falls – only 5 seconds after the initial boof. A few more rapids followed, including a one-and-a-half metre vertical drop – which Dave pencilled and completely disappeared underwater, resurfacing shortly after a few metres to the right of where he went in. Just above the confluence with the Afon Pyrddin, the river-left bank had collapsed and thrown a few trees across the river, completely block our passage at this level.

The tree jam just above the confluence

The tree jam just above the confluence

A tricky portage on slippery, boggy mud was required before launching back in and carrying on. Thinking the worst was over, Tim let his guard down and was pushed up against a rock at the entrance to the little gorge. Going over, he washed off downstream only to hit his cheek on a rock causing him to let go of his paddles and then swim. A rapid rescue was performed and we got back on for the remaining 20 metres until the end of the river was reached. This run had taken considerably longer than any of us had expected – it was only a 3.5 km run – but the four portages and required inspection meant that it took us just over three hours. We didn’t get on until just after 1400, which meant that it was getting dark as we paddled the last section and it was completly dark within 10-15 minutes of getting off.

Saturday night was spent back in the Pen Y Cae Inn, where we all enjoyed their very tasty food and a few drinks.

Sunday morning saw a slightly more relaxed start to the day, not leaving the accommodation until almost 0900. The next hour was spent trying to source another hearty breakfast, which was eventually found in the Wetherspoons pub in Neath. Happily fed, we headed off to locate the Afon Afan, from Pontrhydyfen to Aberavon. The get-in proved slightly tricky to locate, and we eventually set off downstream just after midday! I have never seen so many weirs in one section of river. I stopped counting at about 14. Considering the entire section is only 8km long that is a lot! We were theorising that either:

  • This was a section for the EA weir building team to practice and try new designs on, or
  • The competition was run at a local school to design a weir and so that none of the entrants felt discriminated against, all of the entries were built

The worst weir we came across was a so-called ‘Box Weir’, where all the flow at this level ran down a concrete channel forming a walled in hole at the bottom. We portaged this.

One of the many weirs on the Afon Afan

One of the many weirs on the Afon Afan

In addition to the many weirs, there was also a large number of signs, erected by the local fishing club, stating ‘No Canoeing’. You can read my stance on rivers access here.

No Canoeing sign on the Afon Afan

No Canoeing sign on the Afon Afan

Whilst doing the shuttle, I had taken the opportunity to inspect the final weir – Slaughterhouse Falls – which is a huge broken drop of about 12 feet. As we approached, Martyn and I agreed to play a game with the others. We would put a short distance between ourselves and the other three and just paddle off the lip without saying anything to the others, to see what their reaction would be. All they would see from upstream would be us approaching the lip and the drop vertically out of sight! I had previously told Tim what the line was, and what the falls entailed so we were confident they could handle themselves. Tim promptly followed myself and Martyn down and Emma and Dave followed a minute or so later.

This rounded of a great weekend of boating, and we headed off on the 4 hour journey home, exhausted.

Scotland day 6 – Middle Etive and Allt Mheuran

Friday started off with a plan to head across to the Etive and its tributaries. Unlike previous days, standing around outside the chalets waiting for everyone to get ready did not see a new plan formulated and we headed off to the Etive.

Arriving at Triple Step – the get-on for the Middle Etive – the wind was blowing cold and the river was looking low, though still runnable. This two factors, however, were enough for some of the group to decide not to get on. In the end nine of us braved the conditions and got on the river above the first drop. Everyone made it down successfully with the exception of Dave S, whose deck popped upon landing the third drop. With four of the group heading off downstream after just one run down Triple Step, four of us went back for another run whilst Dave emptied his boat. Following our second descent Ol, Dave H and myself continued downstream leaving Date S and Doug to continue re-running Triple Step. The Letterbox rapid was quickly reached. Dave and Ol both managed to negotiate successfully, whereas I managed the drop on the correct line but still ended up in the eddy on river right and the bottom. After a few attempts, and with slight worry that the only way out of this eddy was to climb up the rocks behind me, I finally managed to escape its grasp and get back into the flow. We caught up with the first group at the next rapid – Crack of Doom – where they were sorting themselves out following a little swim from Vicky. Leaving them to it, we went passed and headed towards the next rapid, Crack of Dawn, which we paddled down the left-hand line. Approaching Right Angle Falls, Ol was somewhat surprised to discover the corner of his right-hand paddle blade missing! Spotting Fred on the bank indicated that we were in the last eddy above the falls. Dave went first, followed by Ol with myself last. For once I managed to land this 6 metre fall without hurting myself! We waiting in the eddy at the bottom of the falls for the other group to arrive before heading to the get-out as one group.

A small group decided that we hadn’t had enough paddling and wanted some more. Dave H, Phil, Doug and myself loaded our boats onto cars and headed down the valley to find the Allt Mheuran tributary, while everyone else headed to the pub to warm up. The Allt Mheuran is only a short run – you could probably get from top to bottom in under a minute – but the walk-in takes considerably longer. To start with, you have to walk down from the road to the Etive river, then cross the river either by paddling or wading across, before walking up to the get-in. All whilst carrying you 20-odd kilo boat on your shoulder. As if that wasn’t tricky enough, the walk up was peat-bog in places, as Dave found out as he sank up to his knees! About 45 minutes after leaving the cars, we reached the section we had come to paddle. It consisted of a double drop totalling approximately 10 metres, followed my some litte slides and drops, ending with a lovely slide approximately 20 metres long dropping another 10 metres with a 5 metre drop to finish. We ran the section a couple of times each, taking photos and video, and called it a day before any of us caused ourselves injury. The walk back to the cars warmed us and, after changing and loading the cars, we headed to the pub for some sustenance. We were greated to one more suprise though – and that was a stag on the side of the road as we drove up the valley to the pub, who was quite happy to pose for some photos as we drove past. What an end to a fantastic week.